Having the ability to create almost anything that you can dream of is one of the many things that makes 3D printing technology so amazing.
Whether you are just starting out with a new printer, or you have been turning your printing ideas into reality for years, 3D printing is a hobby (or even a job) that never gets boring.
And printing miniatures is everything else, but not boring.
Printing small things is a lot of fun because you can create them in very little time. On the other hand, many of them require experience because of the precise surface.
But this is what we love in 3D printing. This is what makes 3D printing more of an art than engineering.
So we’ve decided to compile a list of the coolest small objects.
While there are millions of ideas out there, we wanted to keep this list focused on the coolest and most useful options possible.
To help achieve this goal, we’ve used the following criteria when selecting the best ideas:
- Useful – All the options we selected are either cute and decorative or things that you can use to make life easier or more interesting around the house.
- Free – Each design can be downloaded and printed for free as long as it is for personal use only. If you are hoping to be able to sell the small items you print, you would have to reach out to the creator for permission. Also, make sure to note that on most of the sites where these designs are hosted, you will need to register for a free account in order to download the designs.
- Easy to Use – We chose 3D print designs that follow all normal standards so that they are easy to work with. Once downloaded, you will be able to import them into any popular slicer like Cura, PrusaSlicer, or Chitubox.
Things to Consider Before Printing Small Objects
The details are what makes miniatures so unique. There are either faces or small elements that are a very important part of the objects’ character.
Therefore, there are more things to consider as when you print simple models like boxes.
- Resin or Filament Printers: The best choice here is of course a UV resin printer. And there are two main reasons: details and post-processing. Most resin printers are capable to print below 0.02 mm layer height without compromising the quality. This reflects on smoother surfaces and sharp edges, so it is also suitable if you want to paint them. FDM printers are also used to print small objects, but it requires a lot of experience to trick the settings. The post-process also requires more effort, as the layer lines can be more present.
- Materials: Choosing the material to print with is important, especially with miniatures. The choice should align with the purpose of the object. The color of the material is also an aspect to consider if you plan to decorate them.
- Some FDM materials like ABS are less fragile, making them suitable for objects like a chess pieces. On the other hand, the material is facing challenges when it comes to detail quality. Most people are using PLA+ because of good detail-strength-balance.
- As resin materials are more popular for printing small objects, there are more options. Dedicated materials, e.g. materials for gaming miniatures, can be found online. An important aspect is a curing time. The faster the resin can be cured, the better detail quality can be achieved.
- Nozzles: This obviously refers to FDM printers. Most printers come with a standard diameter of 0.04 mm, which is not ideal for small objects. In general, you will want a smaller nozzle when printing smaller things – because of the lover layer thickness. The ideal starting point here would be 0.02 mm.
- Layer Height and Layer Time: Depends on the capabilities of your printer.
- A smaller layer height will typically allow you to get more precise and smoother results. Ideally, the height should be at least 0.05 mm. The FDM printers will probably not deliver ideal results under 0.02 mm, but some resin printers are capable to go under 0.01 mm for great detail quality.
- The layer time, or layer exposure for resin printers, is another important factor. Small jobs might not give each layer time to sufficiently cool and harden. The material you’re using for miniatures is the main aspect that gives you direction. FDM materials like PLA+ need up to 30s for good layer adhesion. The exposure time for resin printers depends on the type of printer.
- Supports: As miniatures are often objects with a higher amount of overhangs, the supports here are required for successful prints. Depending on the slicer you’re using, it is very helpful to master the art of adding manual supports to your model. The density is also an aspect you have to consider. The right balance between density, infill, and surface smoothness is the key. Higher support- and infill density will affect how easily they can be removed without leaving traces.
- Printing Speed and Temperature: The printer will go over each layer much more quickly on a small print job than on a large one. This does not leave the material as much time to cool and harden. Same as with layer time or layer exposure, follow the best practices of the material manufacturer.
- Printing More Elements at Once: Almost all modern 3D printers will allow you to print multiple elements at once. This will save you a lot of time and hassle. Especially if you can start a print job before going to bed or leaving for school or work. So increase your efficiency and plan ahead.
Cool Miniatures and Small 3D Printing Ideas
The selection criteria have been discussed. It was quite a challenge to find these models, but it makes fun to research.
There are so many sources for free 3D models. Talented designers are finally finding places to present their works to a broad audience.
So let’s have a look at it.
Dice for Drinking Game
This one is a lot of fun, but a little dangerous if you aren’t careful! Print this dice off and use it to make your next party fun and exciting. Players will roll the dice to determine what they have to drink (beer, a shot, etc).
With the help of a 3D modeling tool like Fusion 360 or Tinkercad, you can customize the game to add your favorite drinks. You’ll want to bring this dice with you to every party, whether you use it on its own, or as a great add-on to other fun party games!
This one comes into the useful category. And we all know the frustration of trying to find the end of the filament when you are ready to switch colors. While there are dozens of different filament clip designs out there, we found this one to work the best.
Print off one of these for each roll of filament to ensure you can swap colors quickly and easily from now on.
Toothpaste Tube Squeezer
This small 3D print design will help you to keep your bathroom clean, and even save money for years to come. Simply feed the end of your toothpaste tube in, and you’ll never waste a drop again.
From the outside, this item looks really simple, but inside it uses a ratcheting system that helps to keep it securely in place.
Let us recommend that you print off at least a few of these, because when your friends or family see it in action, they are definitely going to ask you for one.
Whether you want to use it as a keychain, a way to secure cables and cords together, or as a toy for your future mountain climbers. I am sure you’ll love this carabiner.
The design is simple, yet effective, and will allow you to lock various things securely in place. If you need it to be stronger, you can add in additional walls as needed with a quick edit. Of course, this design should not be used for actual rock climbing.
But you’ll have no trouble finding uses for this carabiner around your home or printing lab.
If you are like most people, you have fond memories of playing with spinning tops as a kid. With this small 3D print job, you can experience the nostalgia, and pass it down to your children.
Unlike many spinning top designs, this one is made to ensure the bulk of the weight is on the border to help it remain stable and spin longer.
Print off a few of these in different colors for added fun!
This designer found a great way to get around the need for a metal spring to add tension to a clip.
With just a single print job and no assembly required, you can have a clip that is easy to open and will automatically snap securely shut.
Whether you use it to keep your chips fresh, or to hold other things in place, you will love this innovative design that will work with most 3D printers.
Note, your printer does need to be able to handle 0.5 mm tolerances to get this one right.
At first glance, we thought this was just a cute turtle toy with a movable head and legs, but it really is so much more.
Lay him down with his back legs out, and you can rest your phone or small tablet in place for charging or watching a movie!
Whether you are a fan of the Koopa turtles from the Mario games, or you just love turtles in general, you will absolutely love this fun little guy.
Keep your money, credit cards, driver’s license, and other important items securely with you all the time without carrying a bulky wallet.
You will undoubtedly get lots of questions and compliments when people see you pull out this practical 3D printed money clip.
It is designed to be durable enough for everyday use, and of course, you can make it in any color you desire, so it will match your unique style.
This cable clip is one of the best uses of thin print jobs we have ever seen.
Limiting the width of the ‘strap’ allows it to easily wrap around almost any type of cable, and the strong snap at each end will hold them securely in place.
The 3D print file is easy to edit, so you can make it thinner and more flexible for small cables, or thicker for a stronger clip to keep longer or bulkier cables in place.
Crate for Batteries
Keep your batteries properly organized, so they are always right at your fingertips when you need them.
This set of files will allow you to print off a small ‘beer crate’ style organizer for various types of batteries including AA, AAA, 9V, and more.
The design also allows these crates to be stackable, so they don’t take up much room in your closet.
We love this design, and highly recommend choosing a different color filament for each type of battery, so you can grab exactly what you need with just a glance.
SD Cards Storage
Keep your SD cards safe, secure, and easy to find with this fun question block cartridge.
In addition to being very practical, this block is a lot of fun, since it looks just like the question blocks from the Mario franchise.
One added bonus is that most people will think that the question block is just a decoration, so they won’t be tempted to open it up to find your private files.
Swapping out nozzles is something that most 3D printing enthusiasts have to do on a regular basis.
If you keep all your nozzles in a box or drawer, it can be a huge hassle to find the one you want. This nozzle box provides you with a place for each one, so you can see the various sizes and types quickly and easily.
The origami-style design also looks great while keeping your print area clean and organized.
Keep your chips, cereal, or other food fresh by clipping the bags shut between each use.
This fun design is easy to use and won’t slip off like happens with many commercial bag clips. Simply fold the bag closed to remove the air and slide the clip in place.
When you are ready for another snack, the clip slides off with ease and you are ready to enjoy.
Combine multiple bottles of any liquid into one without spilling a drop by printing off this simple funnel.
This is our favorite funnel design because it has a built-in vent to help the liquid flow faster and without bubbling.
You can even use this funnel to transfer non-liquids such as coffee grounds, flour, sugar, and more.
Raspberry Pi 4 Cover
Yeah, experienced 3D enthusiasts already know why this model is on the list: firmware.
Many printers are using extra pc power to run firmware like Klipper or Marlin to relieve them.
And as most of them require at least Raspberry Pi 2, we’ve chosen the cover for the best performer.
This case will assure your mini computer will stay clean and safe. The additional screw holes make this model very practical. You can fix the Raspberry Pi with the printer or table.
Bonus: Famous Buildings Chess
While we love all of the small models on this list, we couldn’t help but include this option as well.
It isn’t exactly small since there are so many pieces, but we absolutely love it.
Create a fun chess set where the pieces are in the shape of iconic buildings from around the world.
How Long Does it Take to 3D Print a Miniature?
The answer to this question will depend on a lot of different factors. As an example, printing a 25 mm figure using PLA+ with layer height 0.04 mm would take approximately 3 hours. Of course, we are talking about printers with average printing speed.
The following are some of the factors that need to be considered when determining how long a job will take:
- Model complexity – Size is obvious. The complexity of the model is the biggest variable involved here. Aspects like overhangs, purpose, which impact the infill structure, density, and layer height, or printing multicolor models, will reflect in the final printing time.
- 3D printer capabilities – FDM printers tend to be faster. Some of the fastest 3D printers today can print at 400 mm/s. This is great progress when you compare it to an average speed of 50 mm/s.
- Material used – The material itself has also big impact on the printing speed. As already mentioned, this depends on the type and material manufacturer. Some materials can be extruded at faster speed and are able to cure/hardens faster. It is also an experimental mastery. You need to find the ideal speed-material-printer balance.
No matter how much experience you have with 3D printing, miniatures and other small things are always a lot of fun. And many people in the 3D printing space have become specialists in designing and printing miniatures.
Whether you are using one of the printables listed on this page, or you prefer designing your own, make sure that you make the most out of your 3D printer by making fun objects that can fit in the palm of your hand.